Freight train in Switzerland. Photo: Siemens

More money for rail freight in Switzerland

An additional amount of 295 million Swiss Francs has been allocated by the Swiss government to support rail freight traffic. Instead of the 90 million Swiss Francs reserved by the Federal Council, the National Council has increased this fund to 385 million Swiss Francs. The funding is used to subsidise rail freight movement.

Previously, these subsidies were to be abolished in 2023. However, the Federal Council decided in November to continue supporting the industry until at least 2026. The amount of this support has now been increased significantly, build on the argument that the shift from road to rail has not yet been achieved according to plan.

Goal not achieved

What has been done so far is not enough to achieve the shift to rail, said spokesman Kurt Fluri, cited in the Swiss media site SRF. He warned that without the support, freight volumes could move back to the roads.

The Swiss modal shift policy provides that the number of journeys by domestic and foreign lorries and semi-trailers through the Swiss Alps must be lowered from what was 1.4 million in 2000 to 650,000 per year. In the years 2017 and 2018, 954.000 and 941.000 transalpine journeys of HVG’s were counted respectively.

Alternative route

Apart from the funding, international routing was also a topic of discussion. While Switzerland has done extensive work to facilitate rail freight traffic through the Alps, it also depends on neighbouring countries. With this in mind, the National Council said it would propose a state treaty for an alternative route to the north on the left bank of the Rhine river over French soil.

The director of the Federal Department for infrastructure and environment Simonetta Sommaruga agreed with the proposal, but warned that this would be a challenging task. The French may not have equal interest in the route, and the Swiss government will need to back up the plan financially, considering its interest in the route.

Modal shift policy

Switzerland takes a leading role when it comes to its modal shift policy. This policy has been in place since 2000, with the main aim of protecting the Alps, which forms an integral part of the freight corridor connecting the port of Rotterdam with the south of Italy.

The modal shift policy is also a response to a growing number of trucks on the road, which is causing congestion, especially on the Brenner axis. More freight on rails is important for the entire European continent.

Other measures

As part of the modal shift policy,, the charges for using the Swiss railway network will be decreased by around 90 million francs (82.2 million euros) every year, starting from 1 January 2021. In addition, a special discount is to be introduced for long freight trains, since long trains can make better use of the infrastructure’s capacity.

Other measures are an adjustment in the classification of distance-related heavy goods vehicle charges (HGVC). Lorries of emission classes EURO IV and V should no longer fall into a more favorable category. This should encourage a shift of heavy-good vehicles to rail.

Since 2001, lorries on all Swiss roads pay distance-, weight- and emissions-related charges. Two thirds of the revenues are allocated to the Rail Infrastructure Fund (RIF). Without the latest adjustment, the weighted average would fall from 293 francs (2018) to 275 francs in 2024, the Swiss Federal Office of Transport explains.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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